The slow yet steady unwrapping of each piece of plot is exceedingly well done; Stonex knows how to pull us in deep, until we feel just as ensnared and claustrophobic as the characters. Her prose is like the sea around the Maiden: beautiful, unpredictable, and substantial. The broody atmosphere is almost tangible at times, often as heavy and foreboding as the inescapable catastrophe. With a small cast of not entirely likable characters, Stonex successfully makes us invested in what happens (and what happened). We know going in that this is a tragedy, and it turns out to be even more tragic than the initial description would have us believe. But despite the many traumas, the persistent grief, and the injustices we discover, The Lamplighters is not entirely bleak. There’s an elegiac beauty to be found here that brings to mind the poetry of Poe or Dylan Thomas.
... a whodunnit, horror novel, ghost story and fantastically gripping psychological investigation rolled into one. It is also a pitch-perfect piece of writing. As it threads together the inner lives of the men and women and gradually exposes their secret torments, the novel sets the intense and dangerous lyricism of the lighthouse’s heightened world against the banal, fretful prose of life on shore, with dinners spoiled and children crying. The descriptions of the damp, briny, windowless interior of the Maiden, the shifting seas, the choking fogs and sudden, unnatural sounds, are simply breathtaking; and, like all the best literary writing, they don’t halt the action, they lift and propel it.
The Lamplighters reads like great historical fiction, but at its center is a locked room mystery ... Emma Stonex has done a masterful job keeping the story teetering on the edge of something horrific but then pulling back to let the insinuations and accusations sink in. I could not help but think constantly of the brilliant film The Lighthouse, which depicted two lighthouse workers eventually giving in to the madness brought on by the isolation and claustrophobic feelings that such a job could bring about. The Lamplighters never disappoints and engages readers from start to finish with a mystery that may be impossible to ever solve.
Ruth Rendell, Shirley Jackson, Stuart Neville, all come to mind as Stonex ramps up the tension and hauntings. The Lamplighters holds its secrets close, forcing the investigator and the reader to pry determinedly at those deep-driven slivers of loss, jealousy, anger, and yes, even the violence of the cold and powerful ocean, until the last layers of revelation finally are torn apart. With such dark and treacherous secrets, the men of The Lamplighters echo the force of the seas around them. The deepest mystery that Stonex then offers is: What use is the love each of them has known if it can’t finally rescue them?
Stonex is excellent on the tensions between the three men ... Stonex adeptly captures the monotony of that life...and her plot turns with as much precision as Arthur’s beloved timepieces before coming to a satisfying, surprising conclusion. Yet rather than the mystery, it is the complicated relationship between the three women left behind that is most vivid ... Hatred, distrust, lies and an unexpected sort of love binds these women in an elegant novel that is as interested in the notion of hope and acceptance as it is in murder and revenge.
Stonex’s unique tale juxtaposes oddly compelling reality—the daily challenges of being a lighthouse keeper for the men and their families—against a series of strange, poignant, near-mystical happenings that will pull readers in and keep them mesmerized right to the end. A fine read.
British author Stonex’s spectacular debut wraps a haunting mystery in precise, starkly beautiful prose ... Seamlessly marrying quotidian detail with ghostly touches, the author captures both the lighthouse’s lure and the damage its isolation and confinement wreak on minds and families. The convincing resolution brings a welcome note of healing. Readers will eagerly await Stonex’s next.